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Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow


CNN's Laurie Blackman talks to Puerto Rican singer Gisselle

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(CNN) -- Gisselle, a Puerto Rican merengue singing sensation, is just crossing over to the United States with her seventh album, "Voy a Enamorarte." She's doing it in a big way, too. Her single, "Jurame," hit No. 1 on the Latin Billboards charts a few weeks ago when it debuted, surpassing even singing sensation Marc Anthony.

Her popularity is hardly a surprise. The singer, who says she's in her early 30s, fills stadium-size concert houses and struts her stuff on stage in slinky dresses, skin-tight leather and a sultry smile.

Offstage, she's someone else. Clad in jeans and a T-shirt, she spends time with her 6-year-old -- a regular mom, in other words.

Gisselle, whose full name is Gisselle Polanco, says her latest album has departed from her merengue roots, offering a mix of Latin pop and ballads. She didn't finish it in time for it to be eligible for a Latin Grammy, but no matter: She's a star today in Latin America, and a star of tomorrow in the U.S.

During a recent New York shopping trip, Giselle took a few moments to talk about the Latin music boom in the United States and her place in it.

CNN: Your single was was No. 1 when it was first released. That's got to be really exciting.

Gisselle: It's really exciting. I'm really happy because it's the first album that I've done which doesn't have anything to do with merengue. ... And this is more like an experiment for us, to see how it works out.

CNN: Where were you when you found out that your single had hit No. 1?

Gisselle: I was in Puerto Rico, and we were just struggling for that first place. It's like a beauty pageant -- I always compare it with that -- because you start going (up) and and it was like, When it is going to be?

CNN: Merengue is traditionally a male-dominated genre. What exactly is merengue?

Gisselle: Merengue ... is very Latin very tropical music. It's really a Dominican music,but Puerto Ricans adopted this music and have had a lot of success.

CNN: In Puerto Rico and Latin America you are a tremendous success, but you're relatively new to the U.S. Is it weird for you to come from a place where you can't walk down the street and come to New York City and start all over getting to know an audience?

Gisselle: Well, it's weird but it's fun, because you feel free in a way. You can do whatever you want. ... I was born here in the States. ... It's new, you know, starting all over again. It's becoming even bigger for us Latinos because people are becoming curious about us and about our music and acting and singing.

CNN: Artists like Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera and Gloria Estefan are really popular in the states. Why do you think Latin music has become such a part of our culture right now?

Gisselle: I think it's because people are wanting to hear new stuff; they want to see new stuff. It's like a fever all of the sudden. It's like when you open a new club, a discotheque: Everyone wants to go inside and see it and hear the music. Americans too are curious about what we are doing -- why are we having so much success. You can dance to it and listen to it at a party and have fun with it.

CNN: You're now a singer, but you've done a little bit of everything -- a dancer, a model, an actress.

Gisselle: Well, I started as a dancer, and you start doing small things on TV, and you start meeting people, and they're giving you the opportunity to do something else -- which I tried and I liked. But when I got into the music industry, I realized that that was what I really wanted and what I really loved to do.

CNN: Since 1995 you have released seven albums. Aren't you a little bit amazed at how much music you have put out in such a short amount of time?

Gisselle: Yes I am. I didn't expect it. I have to thank God every night for all of the blessings he has given me and all of the good stuff I have had.

CNN: You received a Grammy nomination last year.

Gisselle: Yes. It was for tropical album of the year, I believe. And it was January first, we'd just had a party the night before, and I was doing a photo shoot. And they (record producers and distributors BMG) called (and asked) "Are you sitting down?" I said, "No. What happened?" and they said, "You were just nominated for a Grammy." I started screaming and the photographer was taking more pictures than he was supposed to. I did not expect that to happen. I wasn't even thinking about that.

CNN: Your new album is an entirely Spanish language album. Do you have any plans to record an English-language song?

Gisselle: I would love to. I think BMG is considering doing something like that. I can't say much because they haven't confirmed it, but I know they are planning on doing an English record, or at least something, so we can see how it is going in the United States.

CNN: What is your single "Jurame" about?

Gisselle: (S)he's just asking this person to swear to her that he is going to be there forever, that he's not going to leave anymore and he is going to love her for all of her life.

CNN: So what does the title of your album mean in English?

Gisselle: "I'm gonna make you fall in love with me." But it is the short version; in Spanish it is shorter.

CNN: Is that your plan for the United States?

Gisselle: Yes, I hope so.

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